A Canadian perspective on the rise of a new global super-elite has won the 2013 Lionel Gelber Prize for the year’s best book on international affairs.
Plutocrats: The Rise of the New Global Super Rich and the Fall of Everyone Else, by Chrystia Freeland, took the prize “for its immediacy and authority about the future – the world that we must comprehend and hope to manage in radically new circumstances,” said Gelber Prize jury chair William Thorsell.
A former deputy editor of The Globe and Mail and correspondent for the Financial Times, Freeland is currently managing director at Thomson Reuters. Her previous book, Sale of the Century, charted the rise of the Russian oligarchy. Plutocrats follows a similar trajectory to even higher levels of privilege and power.
Looking inside the fabled one per cent of the world’s wealthiest, Freeland discovered an income gap just as steep as that which separates the one per cent from the rest of us.
“What we’re seeing is not just a concentration of income within the one per cent, but actually a super-concentration of wealth at the very, very top,” Freeland said in an interview after being nominated for the $15,000 prize. She warned that the trend will create “huge political and social consequences.”
The political fallout of such inequality “is one of the dominant factors that is going to shape national and international politics in the 21st century.”
Freeland said she made a “huge point” of maintaining a non-partisan approach to the subject, noting that the economic dynamism that helped create such wealth has also had broadly positive results. But she also warns about the future of social mobility in such a divided world.
“One of the things I discovered that was interesting and fun when I wrote this book is that I realized the extent my own values and ways of thinking about this world are very Canadian,” she said. “I see social mobility and equality of opportunity as really successful Canadian values.”
Freeland was born in Peace River, Alta., and now lives in New York. She will be visiting Toronto on April 15 to receive the prize and deliver the annual lecture named for the late Canadian diplomat Lionel Gelber.